JAKES WEDDING 1030

 

It feels far away but the strains are close enough for me to make out the shrill voice of the female soprano and the strident choir.  Sunday.

It all feels rather melancholic in an almost over-familiar kind of way. Perhaps the shrillness is a deliberate part of the Sunday serenade, determined to get me up one way or another.

The sounds are all around me,  seemingly coexisting quite organically outside my bedroom window. Impossible to deny, they march stubbornly into my thoughts, nudging me to life. Each sound with its own distinctness, it’s own singularity of purpose, each telling a story of the different lives fused effortlessly in this auditory Sunday morning offering in the ancient town of Ife.

My plan though is to have a lie in and thus  I try to subsume these sounds into my consciousness. Deep, bass thumping, rhythmic and constant like a heartbeat from somewhere in this  soundscape. Drumming perhaps. Another church certainly.

From the balcony next to my window,  two hearty voices  sing out some snippets of “Eleda Mi O”-and the echo is carried by more unseen voices. The sounds of splashing water from the apartment next door reminds me the Sunday morning stream of consciousness is on the move. Church is on.

All in all, I could probably have managed my lie in except in comes a very different beast. The “Igwe” ensemble have joined into the symphony of sound  and considerably racked things up.
It’s intense. This choir of revving and spluttering generators at the starting line is completely unrehearsed;  a rising fracas of sound pushed to the  limit.

My cue is complete. Get up I must. This is Nigeria.

There was the other kind of pain. 

The one that nobody could see, no telltale trail of red where the gash screamed in copious relief. No darkened  scabs  easily soothed and softened  by  careful rubs  fortified with  creams . No.

This pain lay siege. It waited in his veins for his mind to be clear again, a stealthy shadow lurking on the fringes of  his  dreams. Kabir  readied himself as the fear consumed his senses  and just like that it took over. 

Only he could feel the waves of unvariegated greyness seeping in. His heart laid bare, frozen  entirely by something  beyond himself; he became that child again, seeking only the softness of safe hands. 

Kabir .  Osupawordpress 2015

If the message was to teach love

I would like you to know that love

is all there is.

In those moments when anger grows

and enthusiasm turns to mould

my senses in a groove

I call happy stones to stir and move.

If the message was to grow thoughts

as strong as the desert sun

I would like you to know

my actions have become measured feats

as love trickles into waiting fields.

Like a glorious song I remain. 

Love is my only refrain.
Osupa. 2015

Fela-NPR010715 abami

“Beasts of No Nation, egbe kegbe  na bad society, beast of no nation oturu gbeke…..”

 

For some reason I had heard nothing about this Netflix event that everyone had apparently been waiting on; the film  premiere of ” Beast of No Nation” directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga.

Naturally, my face flushed with expectation the minute I read the title: Beasts Of No Nation (BONN).I felt that familiar warmth which happens to my brain whenever I speak about, dance or listen to the music of  the great Fela Anikulapo Kuti. Had Netflix  outsmarted the competition completely and decided to launch its first movie about one of the greatest musicians of my generation?   These guys got game for real!

images (2) netflix
And It all made perfect sense.The launch of  Fukunaga`s Beasts Of No Nation was slated for the 16th of October. October is Felabaration month. Now in its 18th year, Felabaration  is a yearly music festival at the  new African Shrine in Lagos which brings Fela apostles and  lovers of Afrobeat  together in an intensely spiritual celebration  of a musical maesro and a deeply concious human being.

World Music - Fela Kuti - Lagos - #uj_0114

If Netflix was sharp enough to ride the Fela wave, kudos to them. I was thrilled to be a witness to see how a director might tell both the human and the socio-political stories which Fela vocalised in his political lyrics. Stories of lives in a  society struggling to shape its identity amid corrupt public officials, insane corruption and  a global hierarchy which was only concerned with its own survival.

Alas, as I read teasers and watched the trailer for Joji  Fukunaga`s Beasts of No Nation, a forced acceptance dawned on me and  the applause began to dim.

BONN it is, only in title.
No Fela. No Egypt 80.
No dancers of beautiful vibrant ebony.
No Pepple street.
No lanterns on wooden tables selling many things  for the head.
No Reagan.
No Thatcher.
Not even a Botha lookalike!

So second base jare.
In BONN like most of his songs,  Fela was in a state of direct protest; making a mockery of failed governments and political leaders both within Nigeria and internationally  who were  not just corrupt but cruel and completely oblivious to the suffering of their people.

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One such leader  was  P.W. Botha – president of South Africa who in 1986 was famously quoted as saying, “This uprising will bring out the beast in us”, in reference to the U.S  introduction of  the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act.

Fela was fearless. As many nations across the world pretended that aparthied was acceptable, Fela  wanted his voice to ring out clearly at the continued cruelty of  Botha`s brutish and arrogant reaffirmation  that the apartheid system would continue unchanged.

In BONN Fela says:
MANY LEADERS AS YOU SEE DEM
NA DIFFERENT DISGUISE DEM DEY-OH
ANIMALS IN HUMAN SKIN
ANIMAL-I PUT-U TIE-OH
ANIMAL-I WEAR AGBADA
ANIMAL-I PUT-U SUIT-U
 

These words continue to unpeel the layers of  the “beast” , espousing the inhuman attributes of  many leaders who simply are deaf to the voices of the people they govern. He develops  the metaphor  further suggesting  that there are many  leaders who look human on the outside in their suits and fancy  clothes but lack the compassion which qualifies them as human. With their nations in chaos and dissary, these leaders disguised as humans are  really beasts of no nation consumed with an overwhelming sense of their own importance and  a distinct lack of sensitivity and disregard for anyone or anything else. 

Growing up in Nigeria,  listening to these songs was instrumental.  Watching Fela perform live at the Kalakuta Republic at Pepple street was an experience to be repeated over and over again.  It was a deep sizzle of  intensly stirring  rhythms, politically charged lyrics,  an ambiance created by an unleashing of all inhibitions and a journey  somewhere quite extraordinary. Fela inspired me to think outside the box. He inspired me to understand that the process of political agitation to challenge injustice and raise issues of social change in society is a responsibility for every citizen.

Watching his travails and his cruel mistreatment at the hands of  government allowed me to understand that not all of us can be brave and openly fearless in challenging  the wrongs in society. However,  to those who do so at great risk, the rest of us must graciously acknowledge and give revered respect where it is due.

download (1) fela



I remember cutting everything I could find in the newspapers when Fela passed on. And I can safely say the streets of Lagos have not seen such an outpouring of respect  and grief in such numbers for any man dead or alive since then.

Warts and all, Fela was human, a poet whose lyrics even now continue that metaphoric resonance. 26 years after these words were first written, they seem almost prophetic as we watch on a grand stage the tragic consequences of having leaders who are beasts of no nation. 

The beauty of Fela for me is in the freshness of his message, the genius of his music and the truth which he refused to be quiet about. As I sing along to BONN and stomp my whole body in response,  I am still moved to action- no jonesing here-exactly as Fela would have wanted his audience to be.

I walked into the room
and my heart lost its nerve.

Slowly at first
moving in steady, heady rips
like the slow patter of rain drenching me in a rhythm far beyond myself. 

I tried not to look, tried  to walk away yet my feet carried me all the way to you. 

I tried not to stare , tried to look like I didn’t  care but even the crimson vase ahead caught the glint of your prying eyes.

There you were
looking right through to fondle with my soul.
I knew I wouldn’t recover from this.

Osupa 2015

There is always at least two of me at home. At least two.

The one with eager, minty feet
wonderfully bright
a fiery ball of “high fives”
flinging through doors
laughing aloud with mighty souls in chill mode
lost in own my depths of sweetness
I become the song.
Then there is the other. Me.
Who sits and stares at the twisted roots
who mutters and moans in doubtful tones
carried away by the whispers of doubts
and stirring of fears from hidden paths.

Just remember
the next time you wonder if I am ever home alone?
I`m always home but never alone
I live with my siamese soul.

Osupa 2015

Adorned in our Monday best we were set loose;
blue uniforms
elegantly starched
pressed and patterned
with saintly white stars.
Like the school girls we were
voices rang shrill almost in sync
our feet caught in the rapture of uncertainty
and a morning which stretched for eternity.

We marched on and the land came alive;
a multitude of rickety stalls
a mosaic of warm, smiling faces behind the
wooden pulpits selling a million sugary wares
delightfully wrapped in bright rolls
ready to feed our swelling ranks.

And to school we went;
questions plucked our youthful hearts
as we half listened to the exaggerated snippets
the petty rumors regurgitated from conversations
of the night before when parents spoke in clear tones,
certain we were too young to know.

Did those streets keep a memory of us?
Did those arteries remember our songs as we cut through
the well-worn paths?

Eyes eager with the bounty of the moment
we had it all:
our hearts
our feet
our streets
and friendships forged in the lazy dust
which carried everything and us
in and out of those childhood places
where all our treasures lay.

 

Osupa 2015

I found you where you left yourself
a tired man
greying and fraying with the anxiety
of upside down dreams.

I found you where you chose to remain
an angry man
growling and prowling from a cycle of
broken-down days.

Sitting in your shadows of tired tales
I listen and lean as you deform the lines,
merrily make up your version of us;
of all those years you could have amounted to more
all those dreams you were forced to ignore
For sure…
If only
If only you didn`t give it all up for…love?

Kindle the pain you must.
Stop yourself from ever moving from here,
keep busy wrestling the truth from yourself
God forbid you give up the joys of
regurgitating the loss of us
that never was.

 

2011_0419_nigeria_elections_m

  On the 28th of March 2015,  Twitter became the cauldron of all things relevant and irrelevant, the melting pot for anyone and everyone caught in the  Nigeria Decides  mantra. It was a hodgepodge of fascinating characters waiting for one of the most important elections in Nigeria’s political history.

 

We were all thrown together: the keen observers with unspoken agendas;  the solemnly accomplished satirists and would-be bloggers;  the quick to comment contributors; the self-made champions  fueled by their fervent aficionados and  the reckless but certainly bloodied political lieutenants and their battle-ready Twitter lords.
It was in everyway a community of people  linked by a common denominator- a shared passion  for Nigeria’s future. This is one account of many.

 

Day 1: March 28th 2015
I  woke up anxious.
A curfew had been imposed from dusk to dusk across Nigeria and with the sort of trepidation which lingers under the skin, it felt as though everybody I spoke to reluctantly waited for news of disruption or polls postponed or an outbreak of significant violence.

However, by midday, it was evident that Nigerians were on the move. #Nigeriadecides rapidly began to swell with  “live” commentary and random images from across the country. Images  taken by mostly anonymous Nigerians, armed with smartphones,  determined to retain a  souvenir but also I suspect,  as a tool to record anything suspicious as votes were cast.

image.adapt.990.high.Nigeria_social_031815.1426728215616

As the 28th drifted to an end,  I scoured feverishly through the feeds- the realization hit first -then the relief. The unexpected had happened. The all-consuming, hurly-burly predicted by so many simply did not come to pass.

Millions of Nigerians had come out to vote  and by and large the first day had  been mostly free of violence and intimidation.

As Nigerians shared their thoughts on social media, many seemed pleasantly unprepared for this outcome; somewhat surprised that it was all going well.
It seemed to me that we had somehow underestimated the positives that were possible. We wished it, we desired it, we prayed for it but on the day, we simply assumed it would be impossible!

Was  the first day just the calm before the storm or something else? A good omen perhaps? An indication of the protracted change already taking place in Nigeria?

 

Day 2. March 29th – Voting continues.

Twitter was buzzing with an interesting cocktail of pride and surprise. The  four letter abbreviation featured in almost every other tweet. INEC.
Nigeria’s electoral college had promised an organized affair, it had promised practical efficiency , it had promised a thorough job; by all accounts, it had mostly delivered.

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However,  a greater victory was afoot.

On the ground, on the streets, in the towns and cities of Nigeria, Nigerians continued to deliver something quite spectacular. Pictures of voters of all ages, patiently waiting to cast their vote, some amid technical glitches and blackouts, images of  visibly exhausted but determined electoral officers and observers all plowing together to keep the process moving- come what may.

nigeria-elections-_3249444a

 

As the 29th dimmed, votes were counted, results verified, reported and shared via public and social media. Tweets were adrenaline- fueled,  oozing nervous energy and an unbelievable sense of pride and expectation. We could do it. Nigerians could show the world  that “your vote counts”!

 

Day 3 Monday 30th March- Gasps and groans galore
As the anouncement of results seesawed into  lunchtime, the margin that mattered narrowed perilously,  it was too close to call and Twitter was close to cyber meltdown. The tension was palpable. This was the sort of battle which forged heroes from ordinary men; the stuff of epic folklore with the battle lines drawn in numbers.
Day 4 Tuesday 31st March- The day of the newly converted.

The deciding votes dripped in from the last few states and  for most on Twitter, God was the focus. The prayer warriors were out and took over in the eleventh hour.

And then the news. It was over. Done.  A new president-elect. A time for new heroes. A chance to chart an alternative narrative in the telling of Nigeria`s great journey.

 

Presidential aspirant and former Nigerian military ruler Buhari speaks as he presents his manifesto at All Progressives Congress party convention in Lagos

Nigerians I hail thee.
We have overcome our own deepest fears, we have shown ourselves and the world that  change was here all the time; quietly waiting in the wings to make it`s grand entrance.  Change was in the heart and civil actions of every Nigerian who overwhelmingly refused to  be derailed amid the high tensions of these elections.

These elections have also shown that we must have greater faith in ourselves. Greater faith in our own institutions- some of which are capable of delivering results if manned and piloted by Nigerians of great integrity.

Through our voices and considered choices let us continue to demonstrate that faith again and again.

 

If the message is to teach love,
I would like  you to know that all there is now is love.
In those  simmering moments when
the fire  of anger grows,
in those weary wakes when
enthusiasm turns to mold,
my rallying senses are seized
in a groove, gentle and warm,
the hassle done
just a steady buzzle of a hum.
If the message is to grow thoughts
positive and strong, like a glorious song I am found.
Happy stones stir,
as thoughts are turned into deeds
and actions roll into measured feats,
emotion finds me and  I the words
willing love to trickle into waiting wells.
Pulped and  softened into perfect hearts
aglow, even now in the heat of the lashing sun,
Love  is here. All can grow.
OSUPA – lightness & brightness

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